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Utah Youth Suicide Study: Psychological Autopsy


  • Preliminary work for this project occurred when Dr. Moskos was at the Utah Department of Health. This research was funded by Primary Children's Medical Center Foundation, Marriner Eccles Foundation, and the Utah Department of Health.

Intermountain Injury Control Research Center, 295 Chipeta Way, P.O. Box 5812 89, Salt Lake City, UT 84158; E-mail:


We conducted a psychological autopsy study to further understand youth suicide in Utah. While traditional psychological autopsy studies primarily focus on the administration of psychometric measures to identify any underlying diagnosis of mental illness for the suicide decedent, we focused our interviews to identify which contacts in the decedent's life recognized risk factors for suicidal behavior, symptoms of mental illness, as well as barriers to mental health treatment for the decedent. Parents and friends recognized most symptoms universally, although friends better recognized symptoms of substance abuse than any other contact. The study results suggest that parents and friends are the most appropriate individuals for gatekeeper training and, in conjunction with other innovative screening programs, may be an effective strategy in reducing adolescent suicide.

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